Do I Need A Will?
With everything going on in the world, more people than ever are making sure that their families and legacies would be supported if they were to pass away. There are major decisions made during the estate planning process, and it’s important to be able to go through the process without being rushed.
Regardless of the amount of assets you have, a will can help protect your family’s finances, properties, and even what happens to minor children if both parents pass away.
Whether you’re looking at creating a new will, or updating an existing one, the team here at Schulz Stephenson Law can help you with the process.
Dying Intestate In North Carolina
When someone dies without a will in North Carolina, it is referred to as dying “intestate”. When someone dies intestate, the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act determines how the assets are split up between any relatives. Generally, any real or personal property would go to the surviving spouse (if one exists), although that allocation also depends on whether there are any surviving children or parents.
If the decedent doesn’t have a surviving spouse, children, or parents, North Carolina law states that the decedent’s estate is split up in a certain matter between siblings and other relatives. The closer the familial tie to the decedent, the higher priority they are given when it comes to inheriting a piece of the estate.
Although there is structure to determine how your estate is split up if you die without a will, it’s important to put in writing what you want to happen with your estate when you die – and, it’s important to have the help of an experienced estate planning attorney help with the process.
Protecting Your Spouse With A Will
Many people think that all assets are automatically passed to a surviving spouse if their partner dies, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Intestate laws in North Carolina state that if you die without a will, your spouse’s share will depend on if you have living parents or descendants, including children and grandchildren.
As a quick example, if you die with a spouse and parents but no children, your spouse would inherit half of your estate’s real property and the first $100,000 of personal assets. Anything beyond that would be split 50/50 between your spouse and parents, including real property.
There are more complex examples, but needless to say, there is a lot of value in having a will and structuring it properly to make sure your estate is handled according to your wishes.
Protecting Your Children With A Will
A proper estate plan can also help shape your childrens’ future, whether you want to help them attend college, keep certain property in the family, or even specify certain items that may hold sentimental value.
Similar to how funds and property are split in the example above, children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren can factor in how your estate is split up if you die intestate.
How To Create A Will In North Carolina
There are a couple of requirements that need to be met to create a will in North Carolina.
- Capacity – You must be of a sound mind and have capacity to create a will.
- Age – A will can be created by any person 18 years or older.
- Signature – The will must be signed by you without coercion, or by another person under your direction and presence.
- Witnesses – At least two witnesses must sign a will in North Carolina for it to be valid. Although each witness must sign in the presence of the person creating the will, they don’t have to do it at the same time or in the presence of each other.
- Writing – Your will can be written or oral, although there are restrictions to a nuncupative (oral) will.
- Beneficiaries – A North Carolina will may pass property to any beneficiary. A beneficiary may serve as a witness, but unless there are also two disinterested witnesses to the will, the provisions benefiting the beneficiary and/or the beneficiary’s spouse are void. Alternatively, a beneficiary under a holographic will may testify as to the validity of the will without voiding the gift to him or her.
Exceptions To Property Distributed By A Will
Although most property can be distributed by your will, there are certain types of property and assets that fall outside of probate, such as property owned in joint tenancy with survivorship rights, and beneficiaries to a life insurance policy.
There are also exceptions where a surviving spouse is entitled to part of the decedent’s estate if they make a claim during the allowed time period, even if they were left out of the will.
Our Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help
Although it’s possible to create a do-it-yourself will, there are important reasons to have an experienced estate planning attorney by your side, as simple mistakes or exclusions could cause your estate to be distributed in a way you don’t intend, or even cost you money in taxes in the way the estate is structured.
Schulz Stephenson Law is here and ready to help you protect your family with an estate plan – contact us today to schedule a consultation!